Thursday, October 15, 2009
As the culminating event to our first-ever "Never Again" Student Conference, 22 students, three fellow sponsors, and I traveled by Charter bus to Washington, D.C. for an extensive tour of the Unites States Holocaust Memorial Museum, led personally by Irving Roth, Holocaust survivor and author of December 2008 club pick "Bondi's Brother". While at the USHMM, students listened to Estelle Laughlin's story (character in my YA novel, "Dying Twice"--as well as mentor for the work). Many students who have been my editors-in-progress knew the character Bubbe Estelle, so they met not only another Holocaust surivor, but an actual character, too. It was a multi-faceted experience for the club members, and we are all changed as a result.
Also on this trip, the group went to the US Capitol to meet with Congressman Chandler's (KY-D) advisor on international affairs for a discussion/first lobbying experience on the still-unresolved situation in Darfur, Sudan (Africa). Students asked amazingly thoughtful questions that demonstrated the mastery of the goal we'd set together (learning to apply lessons from the Holocaust). They did a great job of putting the pressure on and demanding more Kentucky voice for change in Darfur by the sponsoring or supporting of bills, and putting more pressure on the process by which money changes hands to get the American relief dollars to trustworthy NGOs in Sudan. The students became active citizens speaking out for change, accountability, and peace.
Other than that, students toured the Capitol, Ford's Theater, and the War monuments; stopped at the Reflecting Pool in the National Mall area where they processed their experiences from the day before (USHMM); walked their legs off around the city; and kept it real in the hostel (which is another story entirely!). Students had too much fun to know that these experiences were shaping them as credible, sensible, sympathetic human beings who will lead the fight for social justice in their lifetime.
Oh yeah, one last thing, we totally wrote a rap song. And it rocks. :)